BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -– Just from his name alone, you expect to hear a thick Irish brogue as soon as St. Cloud State University wrestler Shamus O’Grady sits down on the steps of the Bill Harris Arena to chat.

That’s what you expect, but that’s not what happens. Actually, he doesn’t have much of an accent at all.

What you do know for a fact is that he’s No. 1 in the country in his 184-pound weight class coming into the NCAA Division II Winter National Championships Festival, and that he competes for a school that’s also ranked first in the nation.

You’ve also heard about his rather unique workout routine, and because of all that, you wouldn’t really be surprised if the young man was a little bit on the cocky side.

Again, you might think that, but you’d be wrong.

A redshirt senior, O’Grady is majoring in special education and plans to teach and coach. He’s also active in the Athletes in Action sports ministry, and when he starts talking about it, that’s when what truly drives him finally begins to sink in.

“Over the years, it’s changed my whole goal on wrestling,” said O’Grady, who also ran. “I used to be all about wrestling for myself, but now it’s more changed towards wrestling for God, for His glory.”

Last summer, O’Grady participated in the Athletes in Action-organized John Peterson Tournament in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Not only did he participate, he won his 84-kilo bracket.

His favorite Bible verse is Psalm 37:4, which says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” It’s the kind of verse that provides comfort, but the last thing it means is that O’Grady didn’t have to work hard to get to where he is in the sport.

That actually couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to O’Grady’s work ethic. Check this out.

O’Grady runs a trail along the banks of the Mississippi River, which in of itself isn’t really all that unusual. What sets him apart, really, is that he routinely jumps into the river and swims out to the islands that dot the water here and there.

In the spring and early summer, when it tends to rain quite a bit, the river’s up and it’s a pretty good swim out to the islands. During the fall, the river dries up some and he can often wade most of the way out in water that’s up to his waist.

Now, remember. This is in Minnesota, which isn’t exactly known for having a tropical climate. So he swims out to the island and then swims right back, making a lap as it were, and he’s finished. Right?

Wrong. O’Grady hops out of the water once he gets to the island and proceeds to run around, checking out what’s there and what’s not, vaulting over rocks and so forth.

“Maybe if I see some deer, I’ll run with them a little bit, too,” O’Grady said matter-of-factly, as if that sort of thing happens all the time with weekend-warrior joggers. Here’s how humble this student-athlete happens to be. He doesn’t even see what he does as anything especially unusual.

“You know, to me, it’s just going out there and having fun and trying to see how fast I can run through the woods without falling down,” O’Grady said.

Well, yeah. There is something to be said for not falling down while running through the woods, isn’t there?

When he was in Mongolia for the tournament last year and couldn’t get to the Mississippi River, O’Grady settled at least once for tossing a huge fallen tree around and ripping limbs from its trunk.

He won’t say it, but somebody has to. That’s hardcore.